Scandal and Survival in Nineteenth-Century Scotland
Title Details

352 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

Imprint: University of Rochester Press

Scandal and Survival in Nineteenth-Century Scotland

The Life of Jane Cumming

by Frances B. Singh

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
Uncovers the life of Jane Cumming, who scandalized her contemporaries with tales of sexual deviancy but also defied cultural norms, standing up to male authority figures and showing resilience.
In 1810 Edinburgh, the orphaned Scottish-Indian schoolgirl Jane Cumming alleged that her two schoolmistresses were sexually intimate. The allegation spawned a defamation suit that pitted Jane's grandmother, a member of the Scottish landed gentry, against two young professional women who were romantic friends. During the trial, the boundary between passion and friendship among women was debated and Jane was viewed "orientally," as morally corrupt and hypersexual. Located at the intersection of race, sex, and class, the case has long been a lightning rod for scholars of cultural studies, women's and gender history, and, given Lillian Hellman's appropriation of Jane's story in her 1934 play The Children's Hour, theater history as well. Frances B. Singh's wide-ranging biography, however, takes a new, psychological approach, putting the notorious case in the context of a life that was marked by loss, separation, abandonment--and resilience.

Grounded in archival and genealogical sources never before consulted, Singh's narrative reconstructs Cumming's life from its inauspicious beginnings in a Calcutta orphanage through her schooling in Elgin and Edinburgh, an abusive marriage, her adherence to the Free Church at the time of the Scottish Disruption, and her posthumous life in Hellman's Broadway play. Singh provides a detailed analysis not only of the case itself, but of how both Jane's and her teachers' lives were affected in the aftermath.
Introduction: Placing Jane
Ante Jane
Educating Jane (1)
Educating Jane (2)
Jane and the Lords of the Law (1)
Jane and the Lords of the Law (2)
Jane and William Tulloch
Jane, Posthumously
Conclusion: Assessing Jane
Acknowledgments
Appendix A: Marianne Woods, Jane Pirie and Romantic Friendship
Appendix B: What Really Happened to Miss Marianne Woods and Miss Jane Pirie?
Appendix C: Corinna: A Ballad
Appendix D: Richard Rose's letter Written from the Manse of Kinnedar dated January 12, 1835
Appendix E: Jane's letter Written from the Dallas Manse dated 15 February 1836 to Sir William regarding wood stealing at Dallas
Works Cited

FRANCES B. SINGH is Professor Emerita at Hostos Community College, CUNY.

"[Makes] an important contribution to unveiling the complicated relationship that involves racial, gender/sexual, and class prejudice in nineteenth-century Scotland." BAVS NEWSLETTER
"A welcome addition to histories of modern sexuality in Scotland, a field in which significant lacunae remain." INNES REVIEW
"A pacy highly readable and detailed account of the fascinating life of a young Indian-Scottish woman." HISTORY SCOTLAND
"This book is one of the first monographs to grapple with the history of Indian-Scottish children and in its rich research begins to open up the experiences of such children and to ask what happened to them when they were placed in Scottish society. In this, it offers an important starting point for what shall no doubt become a larger conversation." English Historical Review
"Singh's lively conference presentations . . . have prompted many of us to express hope that she would offer us a deeper dive into the influences around and within the life of a woman who embodies the figure of an outsider in many ways . . . The result is a many-faceted examination of not just Cumming and her extended family, but the eighteenth century as a whole." Susan Spencer, University of Oklahoma, Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer
"Scandal and Survival is a timely and interesting contribution to the literature on the ways that concepts of race and sexuality shaped the lives of early 19th-century women. The use of recent sociological work on the experience of international adoptions adds a compelling frame to the treatment of Jane Cumming's experience." Pam Perkins, University of Manitoba
"Frances Singh's new biography brilliantly narrates each dramatic turn in this serpentine saga, giving perhaps the most detailed and thorough account yet of Cumming's extraordinary life. . . . Singh's thorough scholarship makes an important contribution to that effort and reveals an early modern world that bears some astonishing similarities to the present." 1650–1850 Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era

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9781580469890

October 2022

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Title Details

352 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

Imprint: University of Rochester Press